What bullying is according to state law?
The legal definition of bullying varies from state to state, but the general premise is that it constitutes an aggressive, unwanted behavior by one or multiple students against another. It may include, but is not limited to:
- Physical assault
- Verbal aggravation, such as name-calling
- Making threats or demands
- Sexual harassment
- Spreading damaging rumors
Books to Raise Children’s Confidence
Your child’s school will likely have its own policy on and definition of bullying, which can take many forms, and doesn’t always look the same. All types of bullying are serious and need to be dealt with, but not all need the specific attention of a lawyer.
Signs that your child is being bullied?
You know your child best, but some common signs that they might be a victim of bullying at school include:
- Loss of interest in school and/or activities
- Frequently asking to stay home
- Often reports feeling sick or having aches/pains
- distracted/having sudden difficulty completing schoolwork
- loss of appetite
- difficulty falling asleep
- appears down, sad, or irritable
- talking negatively about self (e.g., I’m horrible, I’m stupid, etc.)
- has unexplained marks or bruises
If you notice your child exhibiting any of these signs, especially more than one at the same time, you may want to approach having a conversation with them about bullying.
What should you do If you notice signs of bullying?
The most important thing to do first is to talk to and listen to your child. This can also be a very difficult step, as they may not want to open up about the experience they are undergoing at school.
Practice patience and ask general questions to better understand what’s going on.
Once you’ve opened up a dialogue and established that the bullying is happening, start keeping records of what your child has told you, plus any further incidents. This will be useful if you need to speak to school officials or legal authorities.
If the bullying continues, reach out to your child’s school to file a complaint. Issues can often be resolved at the school level if their policy is robust and their staff is proactive.
If necessary, set up a meeting with the school counselor to discuss the bullying. They can be your child’s advocate until the situation has been defused.
Should you call a lawyer for bullying?
Many interventions should be tried in the event of bullying before seeking legal representation.
If all other attempts have failed, it may be appropriate to seek legal counsel.
How can a lawyer help you?
Let’s say you feel that your child’s school is not doing enough to stop the bullying or isn’t responding to your requests for help, a lawyer might be able to step in.
In some cases, you might need a lawyer to help you understand your state’s anti-bullying laws and what your child’s school needs to do to be in compliance with those laws.
The school can be held accountable if they aren’t doing enough to help resolve the situation.
A lawyer can also advise you on who to contact if your child’s case isn’t receiving adequate attention from the school authorities.
Recommended Article: 18 Anti-Bullying Tips for Parents & Teachers
Parents might want to consider a criminal lawyer when the bullying takes the form of what your state might qualify as criminal behavior.
Examples of criminal behaviors include assault, stalking, cyberbullying, and child pornography.
Bullying might also count as discrimination if its basis is your child’s race, gender, religion, disability, etc.
Bringing a legal claim against your child’s bully will not result in a criminal charge, though it may go to the juvenile justice system.
Regardless, there will be serious consequences for the student or students responsible for bullying your child.
Hopefully, your child will never face a bullying situation serious enough that you need to seek the aid of a lawyer. But it’s important to be prepared for anything.
Education and Behavior – Keeping adults on the same page for kids!
Rachel Wise is the author and founder of Education and Behavior. Rachel created Education and Behavior in 2014 for adults to have an easy way to access research-based information to support children in the areas of learning, behavior, and social-emotional development. As a survivor of abuse, neglect, and bullying, Rachel slipped through the cracks of her school and community. Education and Behavior hopes to play a role in preventing that from happening to other children. Rachel is also the author of Building Confidence and Improving Behavior in Children: A Guide for Parents and Teachers.
“Children do best when there is consistency within and across settings (i.e., home, school, community). Education and Behavior allows us to maintain that consistency.”